Attorney Argues Low Income People Unfairly Penalized Under Diversion Program Requiring High Restitution 

By Belen Avelar 

WOODLAND, CA – An accused, who was involved in a hit-and-run case, made an appearance here this week in Yolo County Superior Court, represented by the Deputy Public Defender Danielle Craig, to review his diversion program and being required to pay $11,000 in restitution fines before diversion could be finalized.

DPD Craig said such financial requirements penalize low income people unfairly.

The accused’s car hit a telephone pole, causing damage. The prosecution said the only criminal conduct was the accused leaving the scene afterward, stating “there is no indication that leaving the scene exacerbated any injuries, exacerbated the damage of the telephone pole.”

DPD Craig said these types of issues come up with cases where restitution is the only outstanding condition of a diversion offer and creates a situation in which poor people are not able to complete diversion programs as quickly and have cases hanging over their head, potentially forever.

The DPD said “it is not fair, and it sort of seems contrary to the goals of diversion from your office if somebody has criminal cases prolonged indefinitely because they have an outstanding debt that they can’t pay.”

The accused completed all of his conditions of diversion, said the DPD, noting the accused had paid $1,500 toward the restitution.

Deputy Public Defender Craig asked Judge Wolk to dismiss the case.

In her brief, Deputy District Attorney Ashley Harvey stated restitution was a known condition to the accused for his acceptance to the diversion program, arguing, “I did not include as an exhibit the RJP [Restorative Justice Partnership] documents and regarding certain things that are said or conducted in the panel, but I didn’t know what could be disclosed including what was in the police report as well as up to a point in what’s in his RJP form.”

The DDA added the “only requirement was the restitution requirement, so he’s not successful and because RJP he didn’t have any other things he had to do as we sometimes see in our RJP programs and DPD’s statement regarding his success rate is not a true statement.”

DDA Harvey asked that the diversion program remain in place with the restitution condition, adding “if not, the People object to the dismissal of the case outright and would request the criminal prosecution to be reinstated. Defendant doesn’t get it both ways, he doesn’t get a dismissal or a dropping of his criminal case because he now makes a claim that he would have signed up for the benefit of the diversion program he can’t comply with.”

DDA Harvey requested the judge not dismiss the case.

DPD Craig asked diversion to remain in place and revisit the case in eight weeks.

Judge Wolk agreed to do that on May 16 at 9 a.m. in Dept. 1.

About The Author

Belen Avelar is a senior at CSU Long Beach majoring in Criminal Justice/Criminology. She is obtaining her Bachelor's degree May of 2023. Following her graduation she plans to join the Gardena Police Department as a peace officer who wishes to expand her career further as a Homicide Detective. Her goal is to help those families whose family members have been killed and provide some type of comfort by figuring out the circumstances surrounding their death and who is responsible. Belen speaks both english and spanish fluently.

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